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Intel's Quiet Investments - Integration Of CPU/GPU On The Horizon?
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Date: Oct 03, 2006
Section:Processors
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Intel Invests In Imagination Technologies

  

Intel moved in on a quiet little investment of a UK-based company against the backdrop of IDF the other day. And if you weren't maniacally focused on some of these things, as we are around here at HH, it would have sneaked past you, right under your nose, without so much as a twitch of your sensory circuits.  However, a press release that came across the wire this week was very telling indeed...


Imagination Technologies Announces Expanded Multimedia Collaboration with Intel and Investment from Intel Capital

2 October 2006

Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE:IMG; "Imagination") - a leader in System-on-Chip Intellectual Property ("SoC IP") - today announces that it has reached a new major collaboration agreement with Intel Corporation ("Intel"), which extends the licensing and deployment of its graphics and video IP cores for use with Intel's PC, mobile computing and consumer architectures in certain segments.

Imagination also announces an investment by Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of Intel. Intel Capital will invest
5.28M in Imagination, subscribing for 6,000,000 new ordinary shares of Imagination's share capital (representing 2.9 per cent. of issued share capital prior to such issue) at a price of 88 pence per share, being the closing price on the London Stock Exchange on Friday 29 September 2006.

Arvind Sodhani, President of Intel Capital, says: "Intel Capital's investment recognizes the importance of graphics, video, and display technologies for the PC, mobile computing and consumer markets. This investment together with the ongoing collaboration between Intel and Imagination will expand these capabilities bringing the benefits of enhanced graphics and video to customers around the world."

Anand Chandrasekher, Sr. Vice President, General Manager Ultra Mobile Group - Intel, added: "Imagination has a wide range of significant and market-leading graphics and video IP cores, together with a team of highly respected engineers with many years experience of embedded multimedia. Intel highly values our collaboration with Imagination Technologies in the development of industry-leading multimedia capabilities for future PC and consumer products."

Hossein Yassaie, CEO, Imagination Technologies says: "Our relationship with Intel, the world's largest semiconductor company, has reached a new stage that will see the companies working together to enable a growing range of Intel processors with Imagination's industry-leading graphics and video capabilities. We are delighted to continue and extend this relationship with Intel for our new generation of PowerVR graphics and video cores."

Under the terms of its licensing arrangements Imagination receives license fees and royalty revenues on SoCs incorporating Imagination's IP shipped by partners.

Application for the new shares to be admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange and the Official List of the UKLA is being made, with listing and admission of those shares anticipated to be by the end of this week.

About PowerVR Visual IP Cores
PowerVR IP cores for graphics, video and display seamlessly integrate to enable the design of state-of-the-art system-on-chip (SoC) solutions.

The PowerVR SGX family are Imagination Technologies' next generation shader-based graphics and video technology cores. With state-of-the-art support for 2D and 3D acceleration PowerVR SGX has an industry-leading feature set that exceeds OpenGL 2.0 shader and Microsoft Vertex and Pixel Shader Model 3 requirements. PowerVR SGX cores also perform video/image decode and encode processing for a wide-range of standards.

PowerVR video cores support a wide range of compressed video formats including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, WMV, and VC-1 for single and multiple streams from SD to HDTV formats. PowerVR display cores provide high-quality scaling, overlay and blending, interlace to progressive video conversion and interlace output with flicker filtering.

About Imagination Technologies
Imagination Technologies Group plc - a leader in SoC IP - develops, licenses and supplies market-leading graphics, video and display cores, real-time multi-threaded DSP/RISC processors and communication and broadcast technologies for the mobile, consumer, automotive and PC markets. It supplies licensable IP (Intellectual Property) supported by advanced development tools to leading semiconductor and consumer electronics companies worldwide. Imagination Technologies Group plc has its corporate headquarters in the United Kingdom and is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange (FTSE:IMG). See: www.imgtec.com.


Further analysis of this press release, recent announcements and industry-insider information yields a few notable points of interest. 

  • First Mr. Yassie, CEO of Imagination notes they have  "reached a new stage that will see the companies working together to enable a growing range of Intel processors with Imagination's industry-leading graphics and video capabilities". This statement, though perhaps not completely specific, suggests an integration of the graphics core architectures in with traditional CPU architectures.

  • For many of you, the name "PowerVR" should ring a bell from days gone by.  The PowerVR graphics core, in a retail stand-alone product offering, had limited success versus stiff competitive offerings from ATI and NVIDIA.  However, certainly its Unified Shader Scalable Engine (USSE) is very much in keeping with current graphics core architectures, whether you consider Desktop or Console graphics chipsets.

  • Intel has historically licensed PowerVR cores in the past from Imagination Tech for things like mobile graphics co-processors to support Xscale processors for the handheld gaming, PDA and mobile phone markets.

  • The most recent version of the PowerVR SGX core formerly known as "Eurasia", has support of up to eight pixel processing pipelines and 1.2Gp/sec at a core speed of 200MHz.  It also supports multi-sample anti-aliasing, is DX9, OpenGL 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0 compliant and its die size is only 2 - 8mm2 -- impressive for lower power and mobile applications but also ripe perhaps for integration.

  • Sources tell us that certain variants of future Intel desktop chipsets are going to have a much more impressive integrated graphics capability; more in line with integrated GPU horsepower from ATI and NVIDIA.

Considering all of this in light of AMD's bold move to acquire ATI, it appears that Intel has also set its sites on remaining competitive in mobile and desktop graphics.  Though this is an obvious observation on the surface, the question becomes what if anything will Intel do with the IP they're acquiring through their agreements with Imagination Technologies, in terms of CPU/GPU integration efforts?  And where does this leave NVIDIA in all of this?  Certainly NVIDIA has their work cut out for them in mobile graphics and chipsets where an AMD-ATI tag-team is a more than potent threat in addition to what Intel has and will continue to bring with them to the battle.  But what happens when and if the lines begin to blur between the CPU and the GPU?  That's the multi-billion dollar question we'll all be trying to answer well before the other "shoe drops" -- whenever and wherever that may be. 

Is NVIDIA next in Intel's sites?  Though a pricey proposition to be sure, Intel is the one semiconductor super-power that could pull it off.

 

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